Friday, September 25, 2009

. . .and it was THIS big!

I hate to say goodbye to summer blooms, and every year it seems I am the last person to put out mums and tie up cornstalks. Don't get me wrong - fall is my favorite time of the year. But the change of seasons - especially in the fall - makes me nostalgic, and all too aware of the rush of holidays just there on the horizon. The day after I put out pumpkins and hang up my fall leaf wreath, it's time to brave horizontal sleet to hang Christmas lights. Trust me.
So every evening after DaBoys and I return from our last tour of the neighborhood, I venture out into the dark-wrapped driveway, fill my big green watering can and give my plants a drink. The white impatiens, petunias in pink and burgundy and the hanging plant on my porch that looks like a green afro with tiny white flowers - they all get a drop or a drench as needed. I pinch back dead growth, loosen up the soil and wonder how much longer they'll hang on. Then I head back down the driveway to water the huge Black Eyed Susan mom and I bought at a little greenhouse out in the middle of nowhere. Best five bucks I've ever spent - it's been blooming it's little heart out all summer.
Last of all, I water the creamy hydrangea and the bushy, purple-y geranium that came from the garden of my dad's friend, Gene Werling, after he died. Just as I learned classical music at a young age by watching Bugs Bunny cartoons, I learned my colors from Crayolas, and this old fashioned geranium is a startling, beautiful shade of red violet. I think of Gene everytime I water it.
A trail of kid laughter from down the street hems the quiet as I coil up the hose and turn off the faucet. I like these solitary moments in the evening - just me and my flowers and a handful of stars overhead. The evening smell of grass soft in my nose and the last of the day's heat lingering in the blacktop beneath my feet. So serene.
Except tonight.
Tonight, it was more dark than dusk when I filled my green watering can. As I held the hose nozzle down in the can and turned on the water, A SNAKE came wriggling out of the spout. Shooting out of the spout, really, and let me tell you, it was not a happy SNAKE. If we haven't covered the topic of snakes on Scrapinator before, let me catch you up.
I don't like SNAKES.
I've never liked SNAKES.
I think God made SNAKES because He has a weird sense of humor. Besides, as Gary Larson once depicted in a "Far Side" cartoon, rolling out SNAKES is cinchy.
In my mind Hell is humid and has SNAKES.
When I was little, my mom and dad ordered a new blue set of Colliers Encyclopedias. When they arrived, our little family lined up on the couch and looked through each volume with its shiny pages smelling of fine ink and its beautiful, sharp, full page photos. I unsuspectingly opened the "S" volume and turned to a photo of a snake and launched that book straight across the room and into the philodendron before I knew what I'd done. It was several minutes before I figured out that I hadn't also wet my pants.
Before I met Ken, I once went on a date with a dentist who lived in my building. He was dreamy and funny and we had a wonderful evening. When we got back home, he suggested we call some mutual friends and hang out in his apartment. As everyone else was arriving, I excused myself to use the bathroom. I remember thinking to myself that this guy was someone I definitely wanted to see again. I opened the bathroom door, flipped on the light and just about had a heart attack. There on the back of the toilet tank was a huge aquarium that contained a SNAKE. We never dated again. As a matter of fact, I tucked a towel under my door for months afterward just in case.
Several years ago, I was walking back to my car idly flipping through the newspaper. There on the front page of the Entertainment Section was a huge photo of a SNAKE with (gulp) it's mouth wide open and (I have my feet up off the floor as I type this) fangs showing. Next thing poor Annie knows, I've thrown the entire Sunday paper through the window at her and am running down the street at a good clip, screaming. Maybe the Entertainment Section folks were watching from a parked car, entertained and high five-ing each other. I certainly wasn't entertained.
So to recap: I HATE SNAKES.
When SNAKEZILLA shot out of my watering can tonight all fangy and scary, I ran screaming like a banshee into the house, up the stairs and hid in the bedroom before Ken and DaBoys could figure out what happened. Of course, by the time Ken turned off the hose, there was no SNAKE in the driveway. Or in the flowerbeds. Or the lawn. This did not comfort me. To prevent future incidents, Ken thoughtfully left the watering can hanging from a nail in the garage. Not that I'm ever going to put water in a watering can again - even one hanging from a nail - since we all know SNAKES can get into anything they darn well want to. And his comment that the SNAKE was probably more afraid than me didn't reassure me, either.
Yes, I love the fragrant petunias and bright impatiens of summer. But tomorrow in the bright light of afternoon, I'm going to be putting out pumpkins and hanging my fall wreath because they don't need water and SNAKES can't hide in them.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go nail the back door shut and start caulking around all the windows. And I hope to heaven I don't wake up in the middle of the night and have to go to the bathroom, because Ken will just have to get up and take me.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dumb Things I've Done Already This Week

1. Tried to be cool by referring to tattoos at "toos" instead of "tats," thus making one twelve year old snort milk out his nose.
2. Got tangled up in two leashes while crossing the street with DaBoys. Tripped over the curb then stumbled 20 feet trying not to fall, dragging two unfortuante puppies down the treelawn in my wake.
Fell anyway.
3. Met with a plastic surgeon living in the building I manage, who shared that he'd like to introduce me to two more doctors seeking to rent suites. Discovered an hour later that I'd inadvertently drawn on my cheek with an ink pen while showing him my business-like demeanor.
4. Blew my nose on a crumpled tissue I found in the console of my car. Then discovered I'd already used it to squish a bug.
5. Wore a new-looking bra I found in the back of my drawer this morning - white, nice straps, front hook. Remembered as I got out of the car that I never wear it because whenever I move, the little hook-y thingy squeaks. Loudly. Have you ever heard of a squeaky bra?? Spent the day sounding like the Tin Man in search of his oil can.
And just think - it's only Tuesday evening. Lord only knows what jollity and frivolity awaits!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Back in Touch

A perfect Saturday.
Beautiful weather with sky so blue it made your eyes hurt.
Family together just because we wanted to be.
Food fit for a king, and a ton of it, too.
We'd combed Applegate Farm when we arrived like we always do, taking stock and checking all the nooks and crannies as though we owned the place. But we don't. In a lot of ways, Applegate Farm owns us. It's been where our family goes to hang out, get back in touch, regroup and kick back ever since Aunt Lois and Uncle Ken moved there in 1992.
We checked out the pawpaw tree. I taught the girls how to squeeze sun-warmed concord grapes into your mouth and pitch the skins. We found apples left on the trees that the deer had sampled. And Aunt Lois dug carrots and we picked vegetables to take home.
Later, we womenfolk were sitting in the kitchen, pretending not to eat too many of Bridgett's chocolate covered strawberries and raspberries when dad came in the house to get me. "Come on, Suse," he called me by the nickname I've had forever. "Let's go see if there's frogs in the pond."
I snagged one last raspberry and headed after him, trying to figure out why in the heck he gave me two red paper napkins to hold onto. I followed him out of the house, past the big pole barn and around to the half acre pond Uncle Ken keeps stocked with fish, frogs and (theoretically) one big snake. I was suddenly seven year-old Suse peppering him with questions. Why were we going to the pond to look for frogs? Why was I supposed to bring red paper napkins? Why wasn't he target shooting out in the woods with the rest of the guys? The guys hadn't suddenly decided to forego paper targets and shoot amphibians, did they? Dad did what he's done my whole life - patiently ignored my questions with a sly smile and led me to answers.
He snapped off one of the cattail reeds as we tiptoed around the duck poop and out onto the dock. He produced a roll of scotch tape he'd pilfered from the house and taped a piece of the red napkin onto the end of the reed. Linda joined us to see what was up. No sooner had dad dangled the bait out over the pond than the lily pads shook and frogs of all sizes hopped up around us, vying for the red napkin.
As a boy, dad learned to catch frogs this way using a piece of red oilcloth, altho none of Uncle Ken's fat and sassy frogs were hungry enough to be pulled out of their pond by a reed and a piece of red napkin. And one particularly large frog just stared at us as if to say "That all you got, city boy?"
After awhile we wondered over to watch Annie have a go at Matt's latest toy: an AK47. We typically shoot targets with pistols and maybe the occasional rifle, but I don't much understand why non-terrorist type folk like us need an AK47 exactly. Mattie, however, has always been fascinated by three things: cars, fire and guns. Considering the consquences, I guess I'm glad he's satisfied with cars and guns.
Annie took her stance and squeezed off a 20-round clip. 14 of the 20 hit the paper target and five were in the kill zone.
Yessir, my sweet Baby Girl who used to love My Pretty Pony and wear pink lacy socks can drop you at forty paces with an AK47. That's the magic that is my Annie.
After awhile, we all gathered for some of Aunt Lois' yummy flag cake and coffee, and what is always my favorite part of any visit.
The storytelling.
Dad and Uncle Ken are the best storytellers I know. Uncle Ken told stories about his days with Aunt Lois at the lab that kept us in stitches. My Ken chimed in with a few of his own. Then Matt and Annie reminisced about childhood adventures involving chicken nuggets launched into the dining room and Annie trying to balance a salad bowl on her head. We relived the stories of Matt's high school adventures, many of which involved policemen who somehow always ended liking him instead of calling his parents. We laughed until it was time finally to head out to our cars and say a reluctant goodbye.
To outsiders, these gatherings probably look like a family just getting together for an afternoon. But it's these times that feed my soul. These occasions speak to the character and strength that make our family so very special. My family is not made up of movie stars or corporate bigwigs or paparazzi fodder. We're not famous, not millionaires, not royalty.
We're a family of humans with flaws and faults and weaknesses. We're a family that gathers in and bolsters up and forges on. We're a family that's sacrificed and celebrated and cried and laughed. What we stand for is as old as the stars and as strong as time. Whenever I think I can't accomplish something difficult, I'm humbled into hunkering down and trying anew because of the all the things my graceful predecessors have quietly mastered in the face of diversity. We notice the underdog and believe in prayer and understand service. We have the strength of our convictions but don't need an audience. We believe in giving and in giving back. We know how to be careful and fearless at the same time. Most of all, we're a family that loves each other.
I listen to the stories and the laughter and collect it all to take back home with me. My day to day world is vastly different than the one we create when we're all together at Applegate Farm. But these hours around the table remind me of who I am, what I'm made of and where I've come from.
I cannot wait until we all get together again at Applegate Farm.
Oh - and if anyone needs fresh produce, just let me know. I've got more than enough to share!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Reflections on a Mammogram

If testicular cancer were as rampant as breast cancer, the medical profession would have replaced the mammogram with something comfortable a helluva long time ago.
I'm just saying. . . .

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hellloooooo Mojo!

A career change this drastic is a little like falling in love.
You remember falling in love. That life-in-a-bubble feeling where your universe is only as big as the two of you. That can't-stop-grinning feeling. I've been immersed in this new job/new life - so much so, that last week I feared I'd forget my way home if I had to learn one more new thing.
Now, however, reality has set in and I'm getting some semblance of normalcy back - normal being a relative term and all. Guess what else showed up??
My mojo!!
So, of course, I scrapped Sammy and Charlie. (I apologize to my real non-furry children for not scrapping pictures of you. But really - would you have hung around for this many photos? I'm just saying. . . . ) I made a couple of cards from Lucy's September sketch for the Card Design Team over at MSW. And then I made another card just because the pattern in this BG paper was just BEGGING to be cut up and glued into a flower. That and the fact that I am always looking for any chance to use my trusty white Signo pen to do some doodling!
So welcome back, mojo. It's lovely to have you back in the house. And who knows - this may be the inspiration I need to finally put my scraproom in order.
Or not.
Maybe I'll just scrap some more.
Yeah, that's the ticket.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Random Sunday Morning Thoughts

This is my first Sunday to go to work. Feels like Monday but with church. Weird. I have to wonder - if I'm not here, does Charles Osgood still do the CBS Sunday Morning show?
Pulled my car out of the garage to load it up. I spent lots of time make it sparkly and shiny yesterday and learned one thing: you know you're getting old when you need bifocals to wax your car.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

9.11.01 on 9.12.09

I've worked for the same company for 12 years - with the exception of a few months back in 2001 when I took another job working for a family that owned hotels all over the US. I was at their office in downtown Cleveland on 9/11. All the hotel managers were in town that day for training, and as we headed down the hall to the TV in the conference room, I remember the managers scattering everywhere yelling into their cell phones - talking to their hotels because all commercial flights had been grounded and people everywhere were clamoring for rooms.
I was on the 15th floor of our office building which sat between Tower City and the Cuyahoga River. I looked out across the river and saw traffic on I90, I77 and Route 2 at a complete standstill. All the freeways and bridges were jammed. Some people were out of their cars. Our boss told us that this day was like no other day and that we all needed to be safe. To that end they were evacuating the City of Cleveland. Key Tower is the highest building in Cleveland and there was some concern about it and other high rises in midwest cities being the target of more planes. I had ridden the bus into downtown that morning, but one of the designers lived in Lake County, too. She'd been at a meeting and called to say she was just a few blocks away so I grabbed my stuff and headed out to find her. Tower City was eerily empty. Only the emergency lights were on, all the stores and shops were closed and there was this crazy horn going bonk, bonk, bonk. . . .totally creepy. When I got to the street and started walking, it was even weirder. Drivers were being courteous - letting people in front of them, waving pedestrians on, thanking each other. (I've driven in enough cities to know Cleveland's drivers are NOT the worst, but this was just weird.) I'm still talking to Carrie on my cell because I'm afraid to lose the connection, and she's in tears. I'm in heels with my bag and my purse and trying to cover six blocks as fast as I can. Busses couldn't get back into downtown so cops were directly traffic, and yelling out the locations of which busses were waiting where. People in cars were yelling out where they were headed and picking up total strangers to help everyone get home. I'd found another Lake County resident who worked in our building and she trotted along until we finally found Carrie. The trip back out of Cuyahoga County and into Lake County was surprisingly uneventful. We were glued to the radio and at one point heard that there was a plane over Pennsylvania headed west. We'd long since lost the use of our cell phones by that time so I couldn't talk to Ken or the kids or mom and dad -truly the most terrifying aspect of this whole day for me. As we got closer to Lake County, the traffic thinned out and everything started to look astonishingly normal. Stores were open. Parking lots were full. Gas stations had the typical number of patrons at the pumps. Kids were in playgrounds. For the first bit, it was all strangely reminiscent of a Twilight Zone episode. Since all three of us lived in different parts of Lake County, Carrie dropped us at a McDonald's and we all hugged and said goodbye. Since we still couldn't use our cells, we used the payphone to call for someone to pick us up. When Ken came, he was mildly surprised at my panic. His world - like everyone else's - had been touched by a tragedy but his world was still operating as usual. He'd been in a small town where everyone clustered together, watching it all unfold together. He wasn't that concerned about the kids. He didn't even think Cleveland had been affected so he hadn't really worried about me. I couldn't rest until I'd talked to every family member and friend who lived out of town.
Needless to say, we were both glued to the TV for days. Some of the firefighters he knew left for NYC. We began hearing from people who had friends in The Towers. People who had friends at the NYC hospitals. Then the stories started coming in about the heroes and the victims and the near misses. The scope of the tragedy in all of its awful details finally sunk in.
After that, returning to work downtown was strange. Quiet. I thought a lot about the logistics of working on the 15th floor. I put a good pair of walking shoes and a few bottles of water in my bottom desk drawer. When I went back to work in Beachwood shortly thereafter, I moved the shoes and water to the trunk of my car. I think of 9/11 and it's victims every time I open my trunk. I've swapped them out for new shoes and fresh water over the years but they're still there.
Just in case.

Monday, September 7, 2009


I feel like I hab a code ib by dose. By eyes are goopy and itchy. By dose is running. I'b sneezing. There doesn't seeb to be enough tissues ib the whole world for this.
Allergy season has arrived.
Makes me wonder if my sister hasn't been right all along. Maybe I am just a big snot.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

And This for the Chinese Takeout Crowd. . .

I never knew dogs could tattle.
Charlie, it turns out, is a right yappy little tattle tale. A couple Christmases ago, I put DaBoys in their crate but didn't latch the door properly. The kids were home, and we all trooped upstairs to bed. About a half hour later, Charlies started barking his head off.
When I came downstairs to see what all fuss was, there was Charlie still under his blanket in the crate. Sammy, however, had apparently pushed the door open and walked around. I found him cowering under the dining room table in a doggie fetal position: ears back, tail tucked under.
He knew he'd done something wrong and his brother was telling on him.
Yesterday, Ken was in the kitchen making dinner when Charlie started yapping. Big, energetic yapping. When he went in the living room to see what was up, there was Charlie yapping so hard his little front feet came up off the floor with each yap. And Sammy? He was walking along the back of the couch trying to disappear into the cushions because in our house, you see, DaBoys aren't allowed on the couch.
Ken said it was like Matt and Annie when they were little, only furrier.
This morning I went outside to sweep the porch and water plants. All of a sudden, I hear Charlie yapping furiously. I turned around to see the front window draperies moving around like the stage draperies do at a school play when some little kid can't find the opening. And then, I saw this:See that little paw?
It's resting on the back of the couch. And I swear Charlie was doing his Superiority Strut when I went back in the house.
They're just like kids. Except I can't ground Charlie for being a tattle tale. Guess I just have to live with the fact that one of my dogs is a busybody. I think I'll change his name to Mrs. Kravitz, like the nosy neighbor in the old "Bewitched" series.
Who knows - maybe Sammy will learn how to twitch his nose so he never gets caught on the couch again.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Blog about Nothing. Really.

I know this is terribly Seinfeld of me, but this blog post is really truly about . . . . nothing.
Because for all the planning and scheming and sketching and thinking, I've changed . . . nothing.
Nothing #1
I have planned for several months now to start a second blog for writings about all things nonscrappy. I was going to call my second blog "A Fine Telling," which now seems like an embarassingly egoistical title if I've ever heard one. It came from the album "A Mad and Faithful Telling" by DeVotchka, my favoritest band of all. If you've ever seen the movie "Little Miss Sunshine," you've heard their music. But if you've never checked out their music, get yourself a good bottle of red wine, turn out all the lights and put on their "How It Ends" CD. It will transport you, I promise. Check out their website. My plan was that at the same exact cosmic moment that I launched "A Fine Telling," I was going to post on Scrapinator a layout lifted from this album's web page. It's a truly cool webpage and I just might scraplift it yet cuz it begs for a trusty white Signo pen, don't you think? And while I'm here, how can you not love a band that uses a toy piano and a tuba lit with Christmas lights and sings lyrics like "I would live on the street in a cardboard shack just to worship your feet and the curve of your back"??? A band brave enough to do their own mystical version of Velvet Underground's "Venus in Furs"? A band worthy of music for a movie like "Everything is Illuminated" from one of my all time favorite books??? (Sidebar: I have met one of the last survivors of Trochenbrod. Someday I will tell you about her because she is - as you can imagine - worthy of her own respectful blogpost.)
Anyway, it was going to be magical.
But then I got a new job which requires more of my brain than my last job. And then I began to doubt that I actually had anything worthwhile to say beyond the goopy brain sparks I post here, be they scrappy or not. Not that anything I write here is worthwhile but you see where I'm going with this.
So I am officially posting today that there will be no Lori Keener changes in the blog world. In other words, expect. . . nothing. I'll just continue to make you read about everything from cards and LOs to doggie poo and mousie corpses to pink ribbons.
Poor babies. You didn't even know you were missing out on anything, did you? Sorry. And now all I can say is that I'm changing. . . nothing.
Nothing #2
On August 1st, I posted that I was going to take the 30 Days of Blank challenge, and my "blank"would be 30 days of walking.
Which I did.
I started parking one or two buildings away from my old job. I started walking a few miles in the evening. But compared to what I hoped to accomplish I've really done. . . nothing because I now have no time to walk an extra four miles at night.
However, I've walked a ton during my work day at my new job instead of sitting on my rear end. You cannot understand someone's job unless you've walked with them while they work, so I've sort of redeemed myself. However, compared to where I'd hoped to be I've accomplished . . . nothing in the walking realm. So there you have it.
I'm just one big blog of . . . nothing.
So. To recap: you expected nothing and I've delivered . . . nothing. Mission accomplished.
Maybe it will be like Chinese food, though. Maybe two hours from now, you'll be back here rubbing your grumbling tummy and looking for something substantial.
Can't really promise you anything but as always you're welcome to hang out and sit a spell. And if you don't mind - would you please feed the fishes while you're here?
Much appreciated.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Poo on my Shoe Kind of Morning

DaBoys and I turned the corner this morning only to be confronted with a rather neat looking pile of doggie poo smack dab in the middle of the sidewalk. Knowing their hyperactive interest in such attractions, I attempted to scoot it onto the grass with my shoe only to end up stepping squarely on top of it. (My secret's out: I never even pretend to be coordinated.) I scraped the bottom of my shoe against the nearby curb to get as much of it off as I could, but every other footstep still squished.
Eewwww and ick.
And that reminded me of a joke Matt told us years ago: What goes thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, squish?
An octopus with one shoe on.
After weeks of laughing supportively at homemade jokes from eight year old comic sensation Matt the Hilarious, this joke caught us both off guard because it was actually. . . well, funny. It made Ken snort coffee out his nose, which - like Puxatawny Phil - meant six more weeks of bad jokes.
Today, however, it's just step squish and that doesn't bode well for a disaster-free morning.
Or maybe it just means that I'm getting all the bad karma out of the way first.
I'm going with that one.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Way to Go, Bridgett!!

Last weekend while I was shuffling around my house in comfy old jeans and no make up, my selfless and civic minded daughter in law, Bridgett, was pedaling her heart out in Columbus. She's over there to the left in the grey shirt. Months ago, Bridgett made a commitment to participate in the Pelotonia Bike Tour for Cancer Research , to help fund the amazing research performed at the The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. OSUCCC-James saves lives every single day as a result of a top notch staff and their groundbreaking research. You all know at least one person - and probably more - who have dealt with the evils of cancer in its many nefarious forms. The beauty of the Pelotonia Tour is that it hits cancer with funding for research - our only real hope for triumph.
Through heat, humidity, wind then cold and rain, Bridgett applied her characteristic tenacity and drive to train week after week for this 50 mile tour. The fact that she hasn't even been on a bike in 20 years never fazed her.
I can't even imagine what it was like to sit on a regular chair after riding a bike 50 miles. My brain and certain other body parts are cringing right now at the mere thought.
Most of the good things in life are the result of someone deciding to do something bigger than themselves. And last weekend- while her mother in law was sleeping in and taking it easy- Bridgett was making it possible for someone with cancer to feel the warm promise of real hope.
Way to go, sweetie. You make us all so very proud!